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The impact of electronic publishing on library services and resources in the UK

3.4 Acquisition and cataloguing

3.4.1 Acquisition and access

Issues relating to acquisition divide first of all into those relating to legal deposit and those relating to normal library stock acquisition. Problems of acquisition in the case of legal deposit are discussed in section 3.5 and in more detail by Martyn (ref13). Selection criteria do not need to be considered, as these would be established in the enabling legislation. The initial onus rests on the producer, who is responsible for complying with the law by depositing a copy of his or her product with the appropriate body.

Acquisition of electronic publications by individual libraries is fraught with a number of difficulties. The first of these is the variety of forms in which electronic publications exist, a variety which will undoubtedly increase with time. Each of these forms requires its own means of access, so that different pieces of equipment have to be purchased and maintained for each type of electronic publication acquired. This adds to the not inconsiderable cost of the electronic publications themselves, and burdens the library with the capital costs of a range of equipment which, while enabling access to a variety of information sources, involves frequent replacement of the equipment upon obsolescence.

How does the librarian become and remain aware of all the bibliographic services on offer? Should this activity be left to the commercial sector, or should a national bibliographic service covering all forms of electronic publication be set up? If so, who should pay for it? (This issue is examined further in section 3.4.2.) The librarian's task in selecting material for acquisition is made even more complex by the need to maintain an appropriate balance between electronic and conventional publications.

Further problems are raised by the distinction between acquisition and access. The increasing availability of electronic document access will encourage the trend towards an access rather than a holdings policy. The chief librarian's management of the 'acquisitions' function will increasingly be concerned with optimising expenditure on access to external electronic information resources. Even electronic publications such as CD-ROMs which are physically acquired by libraries may not become permanent stock items, owned by the library. This issue of ownership is discussed in section 3.9.2.

Acquisition of serials in electronic form poses some different problems. Woodward (ref14) points out that many end-users will personally subscribe to those electronic journals of most interest to them, just as they do with printed journals. This raises the question of which electronic titles should be selected and made available as part of the library collection. She suggests that similar procedures should be adopted to those used for printed serials.

Other general requirements relating to the acquisition and use of electronic publications include the following:

Good supplier support that is readily available, fast and consistent.

Installation procedures that are simple and standardised for stand-alone use and networking.

Standard and user-friendly interfaces.

Good documentation.

Dedicated online specialist support.

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